United Front Against Privatisation Formed in Papua New Guinea (PNG)
A new coalition of trade unions, NGOs, women's groups, churches, student organisations and grassroots activists was
formed in August this year to campaign against the PNG Government's program to privatise State-owned assets.
The coalition, called the Anti-Privatisation Alliance, was officially announced on 22 August at the office of PNG Trade
Union Congress as a result of a long consultation process after a couple of false starts. Since March this year a few
issues of national concern had been discussed amongst different organisations and individuals and it was decided that
privatisation was an issue that needed most attention. The Government was seen as "hellbent on going ahead with
privatisation" without listening to voices of concern about the negative effects of the policy.
The Alliance has thus embarked on an awareness campaign to inform and educate the public with the intention of stopping
the sale of State assets.
The first public forum was held on 6 September at the Institute of Public Administration (a government-run education
facility) in the National Capital District (NCD). About 200 people attended the one-day program during which leaders
from trade unions, NGOs, women's groups, churches and student organisations along with concerned grassroots aired their
views and opinions and questioned the purpose of the privatisation program. All speakers were totally opposed to the
program going ahead.
The campaign of the Anti-Privatisation Alliance has then gained momentum. A full-page public notice was published on 27
September in one of the daily newspapers to state the position of the Alliance opposing the propaganda of the
Privatisation Commission, which only aims to 'sell' the idea of privatisation as something desirable and good for PNG.
A two-hour anti-privatisation rally was held on 19 October at Sir John Guise Indoor Stadium, which is within the main
sports complex in the capital of PNG, Port Moresby, with the attendance swelling to almost 1000 people. Prior to the
rally students from the University of Papua New Guinea conducted awareness programs at public markets around NCD. There
was also a rally in Lae (the second largest city in PNG) on 21 October and in Madang (another major centre) on 11
To put pressure on the Government to drop the privatisation policy, the PNG Trade Union Congress led a nation-wide
stop-work on 13 November. The members of various trade unions walked off their jobs to attend meetings and protests held
in a few major centres in the country, notably Port Moresby, Lae and Madang. The stop-work affected mainly the
waterfront and air traffic, although other services also experienced disruptions throughout PNG.
The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea refused to meet the Anti-Privatisation Alliance representatives, who wanted to
present him a petition to stop privatisation, thus the rallies continued in Port Moresby for four consecutive days until
the Deputy Prime Minister and the Privatisation Minister agreed to receive the petition on behalf of the Government. The
PM has been defending the privatisation policy saying it is 'the only alternative' for PNG. He is unlikely to yield to
the pressure yet, but at least now the Government seems to be ready to hear the views of the Alliance.
The Anti-Privatisation Alliance is determined to continue the campaign until it gets a favourable answer from the
The members of the Alliance continue to voice their views through press releases, letters to the opinion pages in
newspapers, talk-back shows on radio and during public gatherings. The trade unions are ready for industrial action, if
or when it becomes necessary.
The Anti-Privatisation Alliance in Papua New Guinea is appealing for help to run their campaign more effectively as
they don't have much resources. You could help by coming to PNG as a volunteer to assist in organising programs or by
donating funds or equipment, such as computers, printers, scanners, photocopiers or portable amplifiers/sound systems.
The Alliance welcomes any ideas or information. You can contact them by telephone on 675- 325 7642 or 325 2619, by fax
on 675- 323 0887 or 325 7642, by email through firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to PO Box 6371, Boroko, NCD 111, Papua New Guinea.